Pochettino puts his stamp on Southampton

Tuesday 22nd January 2013 14:06

Pochettino: New man in charge at Saints

Pochettino: New man in charge at Saints

Early indications show Southampton's new manager Mauricio Pochettino is already having a significant impact, says WhoScored.com's Ali Tweedale.

The arrival of a new manager is often enough to galvanise a failing side, but in the case of Southampton, Pochettino had come to St Mary's with the club unbeaten in five Premier League games and on their way up the table. On the back of an impressive 2-2 draw at Chelsea after being two goals down, it wouldn't have been unreasonable for the fans to hope for, or even expect, a similar result at home to an Everton side that had drawn 10 of their 22 games so far this season.

With Southampton's games having seen 70 goals this season - more than those of 16 of the 20 teams in the English top-flight - and Everton both scoring and conceding in a Premier League record of 16 consecutive matches prior to their goalless draw against Swansea last week, it was perhaps fair to say that another 0-0 draw was relatively unexpected.

Now, while some home fans may have been disappointed by the blank drawn by the Saints, they will have been buoyed by their team's overall performance, particularly in the first half when Everton were restricted to only three attempts on goal, only one of which hit the target. Much of this was to do with the high, aggressive pressing game that Pochettino became advocated during his time at Espanyol.

With the second half more evenly balanced, Southampton pegged back the Toffees in the first half, with 32% of the play taking place in Everton's defensive third of the pitch and 47% in the middle third. Everton are not used to being put on the back foot to such an extent, but Pochettino clearly had his players in the mindset to press high up the pitch and they did so effectively.

Everton could only manage a pass completion rate of 69.5% in the Southampton game, which was by far their lowest of the season. Furthermore, Everton completed only 77.2% of their passes in their own half; also the worst they have had in a Premier League game this season, just behind their rate of 78.4% against league leaders Manchester United. It was also the 12th worst by any team this term, with only QPR (20th in the table), Reading (18th), Southampton (15th), West Ham (12th) and Stoke (10th) having recorded lower values.

A look at the WhoScored match page backs up these suggestions, with Southampton reported as having stolen the ball from the opposition often. Also reported here as the Saints' other two strengths in this match are that they attacked effectively from long shots and set-pieces. That is, eight of Southampton's 16 attempts on goal - including Rickie Lambert hitting the post - came from set-pieces, and seven of their 16 came from long range.

While this is not to say that Southampton played badly and did not attack with the fluidity that we have come to expect, it is interesting to note that the closest they came to scoring was from such situations. Having scored twice from open play against Chelsea, with all six of their goal attempts also coming from normal play, they are not a team that rely on set-pieces. Could it have been that there was such emphasis on a high pressing game that they tired by the time they won the ball and their thoughts turned to attack?

Gaston Ramirez and Guly Do Prado, selected in attacking midfield, each made a total of seven tackles and interceptions against Everton, despite respective averages before that game of 3.1 and 1.3. Clearly, they were told to make inroads into the Everton defence in this way, and clearly, the message got through, but just as obvious was the fact that they tired, as they were withdrawn after 71 and 62 minutes. Pochettino himself admitted that fatigue started to kick in after the break, whilst David Moyes stated that his team became 'frustrated' in the first half, only to settle in during the second - once the pressing became less intense.

Of course, one game is not enough to be able to draw strong conclusions on the effect of an incoming manager and the tactics he looks to implement on his new squad. Nonetheless, Pochettino was expected to change the style of play at St Mary's and it looks, from first viewing, as if he is going to do just that.

All stats courtesy of WhoScored.com. Follow Ali Tweedale on Twitter at @alitweedale.

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